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What should be the Book Club picks for April+?

  • Oryx and Crake - Book #1 of the MaddAddam trilogy - Margaret Atwood
  • Beggars in Spain - Book #1 of the Sleepless trilogy - Nancy Kress
  • Too Far - Rich Shapiro
  • Revolt in 2100 - (short stories collection) - Robert A. Heinlein
  • Morlock the Maker Short Stories - (pre-Blood of Ambrose?) - James Enge
  • Downbelow Station - C. J. Cherryh
  • Hammerfall - C. J. Cherryh
  • Sundiver - David Brin

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:17 | Votes:57

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @10:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the just-wheelin'-it dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

Uber and Lyft are reportedly battling it out to buy Citi Bike's parent company, Motivate

Lyft might have thought its plan to buy bike-sharing company Motivate was a done deal. Uber, it seems, has other plans. Reports last week suggested that Lyft had struck a deal for upwards of $250 million to buy Motivate. But Uber is considering muscling in with its own offer, Axios reports.

Motivate is behind Citi Bike in New York and Ford GoBike in San Francisco, along with bike-sharing programs in other cities including Boston, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Commuters used its bikes 3.18 million times last month.

As the battlegrounds get more intense for the companies' non-ridesharing offerings, Uber and Lyft are exploring electric scooters and, yes, bike sharing. Uber recently bought Jump, which has an exclusive permit to run a dockless bike share system in San Francisco, so Motivate would expand its portfolio of urban services.

Both Uber and Lyft have reportedly applied for licenses to run electric scooters in San Francisco; scooters were recently pulled from the city's streets pending a licensing process, in part because they've proven a nuisance for many. There are more ways than cars to get people around cities, and both companies seem to be focusing more on alternative transport methods. Bike sharing, at the very least, would be a stopgap until flying cabs come along.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @09:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the gotta-keep-those-profits-coming-in dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

AT&T is imposing another $5-per-month price increase on customers who have held onto a decade-old grandfathered unlimited data plan. The new price will be $45 a month.

The data plan's price was $30 monthly for seven years until AT&T raised it to $35 in February 2016. A second $5 bump brought the price to $40 a month in January 2017. The third $5 increase in three years will kick in next month.

"Customers who have a grandfathered $40 data plan will receive notifications of a $5 per month rate increase for the data plan," AT&T said in the price increase announcement. "The rate increase will take effect starting with the customer’s July, 2018 service."

The $45 monthly fee is for wireless data only. These customers pay additional fees for phone calling and texting, roughly doubling the overall price.

AT&T could force these customers to move to newer plans because their contracts ran out years ago. Instead, the carrier has been implementing yearly price hikes and encouraging users to change plans. AT&T urged the customers to "learn more about the benefits of our currently available unlimited rate plans," while noting that customers who switch to a different plan "will not be able to switch back to their current grandfathered unlimited data plan in the future."

[...] AT&T claimed that it is imposing the latest price increase simply to "make sure we continue to provide the best service for all of our customers," because the use of mobile data is hitting "record levels."

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @07:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the asking-soylent dept.

Imagine being isolated off-grid for an unknown number of years. Maybe you're stuck somewhere like Davidge or Mark Watney; or perhaps you've chosen a life of isolation like Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Maybe you're a survivor of the $Apocalypse. Wouldn't keeping a journal be a great idea? You could pass on your knowledge, keep track of daily activities, maybe even keep yourself from going insane!

Forget all the wastefulness, extravagance, and complexity of most modern devices, you've got survival to think about! Obviously power usage would be a major concern, but ergonomics, searchability, repairability, and data robustness would be important too. Keeping in mind that this is a dedicated device for journaling and barring the old Russian pencil and paper, what would the best solution look like with off-the-shelf modern technology?

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @06:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the understanding-nothing dept.

By demonstrating that even tiny brains can comprehend complex, abstract concepts, the surprise finding opens possibilities for new, simpler approaches to developing Artificial Intelligence. In research published in the journal Science, Australian and French researchers tested whether honey bees can rank numerical quantities and understand that zero belongs at the lower end of a sequence of numbers.

Associate Professor Adrian Dyer, from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, said the number zero was the backbone of modern maths and technological advancements.

"Zero is a difficult concept to understand and a mathematical skill that doesn't come easily -- it takes children a few years to learn," Dyer said. "We've long believed only humans had the intelligence to get the concept, but recent research has shown monkeys and birds have the brains for it as well. What we haven't known -- until now -- is whether insects can also understand zero."

As well as being a critical pollinator, the honeybee is an exceptional model species for investigating insect cognition, with previous research showing they can learn intricate skills from other bees and even understand abstract concepts like sameness and difference. But bee brains have fewer than 1 million neurons -- compared with the 86,000 million neurons of a human brain -- and little was known about how insect brains would cope with being tested on such an important numeric skill.

RMIT PhD researcher Scarlett Howard set out to test the honeybee on its understanding, marking individual honeybees for easy identification and luring them to a specially-designed testing apparatus. The bees were trained to choose an image with the lowest number of elements in order to receive a reward of sugar solution. For example, the bees learned to choose three elements when presented with three vs. four; or two elements when presented with two vs. three.

When Howard periodically tested the bees with an image that contained no elements versus an image that had one or more, the bees understood that the set of zero was the lower number -- despite never having been exposed to an "empty set."

Dyer, a researcher in the Bio Inspired Digital Sensing-Lab (BIDS-Lab) in RMIT's Digital Ethnography Research Centre, said the findings opened the door to new understandings of how different brains could represent zero.

"This is a tricky neuroscience problem," he said. "It is relatively easy for neurons to respond to stimuli such as light or the presence of an object but how do we, or even an insect, understand what nothing is? How does a brain represent nothing? Could bees and other animals that collect lots of food items, have evolved special neural mechanisms to enable the perception of zero? If bees can learn such a seemingly advanced maths skill that we don't even find in some ancient human cultures, perhaps this opens the door to considering the mechanism that allows animals and ourselves to understand the concept of nothing."

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @04:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the anthropogenic-lost-records dept.

Science Alert has a story about a long running Lunar temperature measurement that apparently was lost and forgotten for decades.

Between 1971 and 1977, Apollo scientists conducting experiments on the Moon discovered that the surface of our li'l satellite buddy got mysteriously warmer. But the data from 1974 onwards went missing, and the strange warming phenomenon remained an enigma. The experiment was called the heat flow experiment, and it was designed to determine the rate at which the interior of the Moon loses heat.

Astronauts with Apollo 15 and 17 drilled holes into the lunar surface, up to depths of 2.3 metres, and probes measured the temperature at several depths in the holes.

These were long-term experiments, left in place after the astronauts departed, and transmitting data back to Earth.

The measurements revealed that the temperature of the moon at all measured depths got warmer from the date the experiment started in 1971 all the way till measurements ended in 1977.
That's a relatively short period of time on a planetary time frame. A rate of warming that rapid would have the moon surface incandescent well before we were began squabbling over who got to live in the best caves.

Various theories were put forth, but in the end people pretty much agreed it must be our fault.

In typical NASA fashion, the data was archived on tape, filed in the tape vault, and promptly forgotten, lost, moved, etc. Decades later, someone went looking for it. Some 440 tapes were found, (less than 10%) badly degraded over time. Some were recovered, Logs (written ones on that old unreliable medium: Paper) were found and when combined these sources recovered significant portions of the long lost data.

After 8 years of analysis, the data showed that the warming continued, all the way through until the end of observations in 1977. It also showed that, closer to the surface, the warming was more pronounced; and the warmth reached the shallower depths sooner, suggesting that the warming was occurring from the surface down, rather than radiating out from the Moon's interior.

So were the astronauts doing that? The researchers believe that their movements were disturbing the dirt on the lunar surface.

"Recently acquired images of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera over the two landing sites show that the regolith on the paths of the astronauts turned darker, lowering the albedo," they wrote in their paper.

"We suggest that, as a result of the astronauts' activities, solar heat intake by the regolith increased slightly on average, and that resulted in the observed warming."

In other words, when they stomped about and drove lunar rovers all over the landing sites, the Apollo astronauts overturned the topsoil, exposing darker regolith underneath. Darker surfaces don't reflect as much light; instead, they absorb it.

So this darker lunar surface at the Apollo sites absorbed more of the Sun's heat, raising the Moon's surface temperature by a few degrees.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @03:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the solution-looking-for-a-problem dept.

[janrinok:] We covered a story a few months ago regarding a watch that also contained a projector which could be used to show an enlarged image on any nearby surface, including the hand that is wearing the watch. Well somebody decided to look a little more closely at making his own small projector - although not quite to the same degree of miniaturisation.

Who doesn’t want a pocket projector? Nothing will impress a date more than being able to whip out a PowerPoint presentation of your latest trip to the comic book convention. The key to [MickMake] build is the $100 DLP2000EVM evaluation module from Texas Instruments. This is an inexpensive light engine, and perfect for rolling your own projector. You can see the result in the video below.

If you don’t need compactness, you could drive the module with any Rasberry Pi or even a regular computer. But to get that pocket form factor, a Pi Zero W fits the bill. A custom PCB from [MickMake] lets the board fit in with the DLP module in a very small form factor. DLP chips use lots of microscopic mirrors that you can move roughly 20 degrees under computer control. So you can reflect light into the lens or bounce it away so it makes the image black. For color, an RGB LED cycles through the primary colors and you have to time your mirror movements to the color you want to project. Of course, the module takes care of all this for you behind the scenes.

The module can output up to 30 lumens (by default, though, it is 20 lumens) and has I2C and 8/16/24-bit parallel RGB video interfaces. If you don’t want to go with a custom board, the device supports the BeagleBone Black right out of the box. The DLP resolution is nHD. That is the mirror array is 640×360. While you might think the “n” stands for not, it actually stands for ninth, as in one-ninth. The current release of the adapter board lacks an audio amplifier, although that may change in a future release. For now, you can play audio from the Pi via Bluetooth.

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @02:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the systemd-free dept.

It's like Debian Linux, but without systemd.

Release notes are at

Previously: Devuan ASCII Sprint -- 15-17 Dec. 2017

Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Monday June 11 2018, @01:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the cheery-start-to-the-week dept.

Good news! Automation capable of erasing white collar jobs is coming, but not for a decade or more. And that’s also the bad news because interest in automation accelerates during economic downturns, so once tech that can take your job arrives you’ll already have lived through another period of economic turmoil that may already have cost you your job.

That lovely scenario was advanced yesterday by professor Mirko Draca of The London School of Economics, who yesterday told Huawei’s 2018 Asia-Pacific Innovation Day 2018 that the world is currently in “an era of investment and experimentation” with technology. The effects of such eras, he said, generally emerge ten to fifteen years in the future.

Innovation in the 1980s therefore sparked the PC and internet booms of the mid-to-late 1990s, and we’re still surfing [SIC - suffering?] the changes they unleashed. “Our current era of mobile tech doesn’t measure up to the radical 1990s,” he said, as shown by the fact that productivity gains appear to have stalled for a decade or more.

[...] “We predict that AI and robotics will lead to some sort of productivity surge in ten to fifteen years,” he said, adding that there is “no clear evidence” that a new wave of technologies that threaten jobs has started.

But he also said that it will once businesses see the need to control costs.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday June 11 2018, @12:21PM   Printer-friendly
from the game-on dept. New video game streaming service to rival Twitch

Facebook has launched its own video game streaming hub., which launched on Thursday, will compete directly with popular platforms like Twitch and Mixer.

It's part of the social media site's continued efforts to become a destination for video content. The new service suggests streams based on who individual users follow, and highlights content chosen by Facebook.

Instagram is targeting one of YouTube's weaknesses with plans for long-form video

Instagram is gunning for YouTube with a plan to allow longer-form video, according to the owner of an influencer network whose clients have talked with the Facebook-owned company, as well as numerous media reports.

Allowing long video could help Instagram court social media stars and their millions of fans to use its platform as their primary online home, instead of relying on YouTube, where many have fewer followers. And when the users move, so will the marketers, meaning Facebook stands to gain advertising revenue at Google-owned YouTube's expense.

[...] The news of the Facebook-owned platform embracing longer videos was first reported by The Wall Street Journal, which said Instagram would soon allow users to upload videos up to 60 minutes to their profiles. TechCrunch added on Thursday that Instagram was talking to social media influencers and publishers to create shows for an upcoming section for dedicated-to-video content, similar to Snapchat Discover.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday June 11 2018, @10:50AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-you-dare-touch-my-trs-80 dept.

Crowdfunding site Indiegogo has called time on a high-profile British project to create a retro handheld console.

[...] "Indiegogo asked for proof that we are ready to ship the product and requested that we send them a unit to their San Francisco office," added Dr David Levy, RCL's chairman

"We responded yesterday saying that we would sooner give a demonstration of a unit to their UK representative, and asking Indiegogo to request that he contact us to fix an appointment. Their reaction was this latest statement."

[...] The Vega+ campaign raised a total of £512,790 from more than 4,700 people on Indiegogo before the US firm blocked it from accepting more funds in March 2017.

[...] RCL has missed multiple deadlines over the past two years and given a variety of reasons for doing so, ranging from problems with the buttons of the Vega+ to disputes with former company directors - the details of which are contested.

The company had originally pledged to deliver the console in the summer of 2016.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday June 11 2018, @09:10AM   Printer-friendly
from the good dept.

A combination of the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol can help bring closure to some women and their families suffering from miscarriage, and reduces the need for surgical intervention to complete the painful miscarriage process. Results of a new clinical trial led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, show that while the standard drug regimen using misoprostol on its own frequently fails to complete the miscarriage, a combination of misoprostol and the drug mifepristone works much more reliably. The report is published today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Each year in the United States alone approximately 1 million women have miscarriages. When the body does not expel the pregnancy tissue on its own -- the final part of a miscarriage -- women need to undergo a surgical procedure or take the drug misoprostol. Though often preferable for its convenience and privacy -- patients can take it in the comfort of their own homes -- misoprostol does not always work, and many women who use misoprostol are still left with no option but to undergo an invasive procedure they wished to avoid, prolonging an already physically and emotionally difficult situation.

"Though rarely discussed openly, miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy, and the public health burden is both physical and psychological. For too many women, misoprostol alone just leads to frustration. I have seen my patients suffer from the insult of the treatment failure added to the injury of the initial loss," said study lead author Courtney A. Schreiber, MD, MPH, chief of the division of Family Planning and an associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. "As physicians, we have to do better for these patients, and our new study shows that by combining mifepristone with misoprostol, we can."

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday June 11 2018, @07:34AM   Printer-friendly
from the with-NFS? dept.

Submitted via IRC for Fnord666

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is announcing a $1.8 million grant for the initial development of a data storage network over the next two years. A collaborative team will combine their expertise, facilities and research challenges to develop the Open Storage Network (OSN). OSN will enable academic researchers across the nation to work with and share their data more efficiently than ever before.

[...] NSF's investment in OSN builds on a seed grant by Schmidt Futures — a philanthropic initiative founded by former Google Chairman Eric Schmidt –to enable the data transfer systems for the new network. These systems are designed to be low-cost, high-throughput, large-capacity, and capable of matching the speed of a 100-gigabit network connection with only a small number of nodes. This configuration will help to ensure that OSN can eventually be deployed in many universities across the U.S. to leverage prior investments and establish sustainable management for the overall storage network.

Source: NSF Supports Development of New Nationwide Data Storage Network

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday June 11 2018, @05:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the but-coal-is-ok dept.

And Just Like That, Goth-Friendly Charcoal Foods Were Canceled

It turns out those highly Instagrammable, pitch-black "goth" foods were far edgier than we could have ever imagined. According to a new report in Eater, the Department of Health says that activated charcoal is currently banned from all food- and drink-serving establishments in NYC. A spokesperson for DOH told Eater that the rule isn't new, but enforcement has increased.

Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream, that NYC ice cream shop that caused a mini frenzy in 2016 over their popular jet-black ice cream, reportedly had to dump "$3,000 worth of product during a routine inspection," per owner Nick Morgenstern. The ice cream shop posted a cryptic Instagram in late May that hinted something was afoot. The ice cream, which they've been making since 2015, uses coconut ash—a form of activated charcoal. "I don't see any evidence that this is actually a question of public health safety," Morganstern told Eater. "I would challenge someone to identify the public health safety risk of that ingredient."

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Monday June 11 2018, @04:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the bulletproof-buildings dept.

Real Estate Jumps In Chinese City Bordering North Korea

[...] Occasional trains are some of the only traffic left on the China-Korea Friendship Bridge. This is the crossing point for 70 percent of goods entering North Korea from China — things like coal, fuel and household appliances — which are typically transported from Dandong, a gleaming metropolis, to drab Sinuju, the North's second-largest city.

But these are atypical times: United Nations sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear and weapons tests have reduced traffic on this bridge to a trickle. The effects are hitting the economy of this Chinese city hard as well. But in April, Dandong's hopes were suddenly lifted. A historic meeting between leaders of North and South Korea provided raised optimism here that the closed country across the river may soon open for business. The summit planned for next week between President Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un has added more fuel to the anticipation. And investors from across China have flooded in to this border city of 2.4 million. [...] "I've never seen anything like this in Dandong," says [Bob] Li, as workers scurry around him. "We'd have several buyers coming in from all over China buying up apartments. To them, the homes were very cheap, so they would buy as many as possible."

[...] "The rumor around town is that if the North opens up, it'll finally build a road to the new bridge, and our city will be linked to Seoul by road," says Li. "Pyongyang would just be a stop on the way."

Also at Reuters.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday June 11 2018, @02:38AM   Printer-friendly
from the zombie-snack dept.

Even though you use your brain to do a lot of thinking, you probably don't think about your brain that often.

It's an incredibly complex, incredibly precious organ. It's also incredibly squishy, as you can see in an amazing teaching video that demonstrates a freshly removed brain straight from autopsy.

As the neuroanatomist handles the vulnerable blob with the utmost care, it's awe-inspiring to realise that each one of us has a squishy brain just like it - and it contains all our memories and thoughts.

[...] And that's actually one of the purposes of the video - apart from being a teaching material, the university wanted "to stress the vulnerability of the brain to highlight the importance of wearing helmets, seat belts, and taking care of this very precious tissue."

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday June 11 2018, @01:01AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-know-where-you-were dept.

A feature called Significant Locations collects a detailed history of places you visit on a regular basis. The feature can be disabled via Settings > Privacy > Location Services > System Services > Significant Locations. The feature can be disabled, and history of data collected can be deleted. Apple claims that Significant Locations are encrypted and cannot be read by anyone except the phone owner. Yet, most iPhone users are unaware that their phone records their current location and calculates which locations are significant. Why hasn't Apple made people more aware of this potential violation of their privacy?

Original Submission